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E03503: Eunapius of Sardis in his Lives of the Sophists recounts the destruction of the Alexandrian Serapeum and the shrines of Kanopos in c. 391. He states that they were taken over by monks practising the cult of martyrs and relics, which he describes as a defiling worship of dead criminals. Written in Greek in c. 410, probably in Sardis.

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posted on 27.07.2017, 00:00 by CSLA Admin
Eunapius of Sardis, Lives of the Sophists, 6.11.

(1.) Ὅτι δὲ ἦν τι θειότερον τὸ κατ’ αὐτόν, οὐκ εἰς μακρὰν ἀπεσημάνθη· οὐ γὰρ ἔφθανεν ἐκεῖνος ἐξ ἀνθρώπων ἀπιών, καὶ ἥ τε θεραπεία τῶν κατὰ τὴν Ἀλεξάνδρειαν καὶ τὸ Σεραπεῖον ἱερὸν διεσκεδάννυτο· οὐχ ἡ θεραπεία μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὰ οἰκοδομήματα, καὶ πάντα ἐγίνετο καθάπερ ἐν (2.) ποιητικοῖς μύθοις, τῶν Γιγάντων κεκρατηκότων. καὶ τὰ περὶ τὸν Κάνωβον ἱερὰ ταὐτὸ τοῦτο ἔπασχον, Θεοδοσίου μὲν τότε βασιλεύοντος, Θεοφίλου δὲ προστατοῦντος τῶν ἐναγῶν, ἀνθρώπου τινὸς Εὐρυμέδοντος ὅς ποθ’ ὑπερθύμοισι Γιγάντεσσιν βασίλευεν, Εὐαγρίου δὲ τὴν πολιτικὴν ἀρχὴν ἄρχοντος, Ῥωμανοῦ δὲ (3.) τοὺς κατ’ Αἴγυπτον στρατιώτας πεπιστευμένου· οἵτινες, ἅμα φραξάμενοι κατὰ <τῶν ἱερῶν> λιθ<ίν>ων καὶ λιθοξο<άν>ων, ἐπὶ θυμὸν ταῦτα βαλλόμενοι, πολέμου δὲ μήτε ἀκοὴν <μήτε παρακοὴν> ὑφιστάμενοι, τῷ τε Σεραπείῳ κατελυμήναντο καὶ τοῖς ἀναθήμασιν ἐπολέμησαν, ἀνανταγώνιστον καὶ ἄμα- (4.) χον νίκην νικήσαντες. τοῖς γοῦν ἀνδριᾶσι καὶ ἀναθήμασι ἐς τοσόνδε γενναίως ἐμαχέσαντο, ὥστε οὐ μόνον ἐνίκων αὐτά, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἔκλεπτον, καὶ τάξις ἦν αὐτοῖς πολεμικὴ τὸ (5.) ὑφελόμενον λαθεῖν. τοῦ δὲ Σεραπείου μόνον τὸ ἔδαφος οὐχ ὑφείλοντο διὰ βάρος τῶν λίθων, οὐ γὰρ ἦσαν εὐμετακίνητοι· συγχέαντες δὲ ἅπαντα καὶ ταράξαντες, οἱ πολεμικώτατοι καὶ γενναῖοι, καὶ τὰς χεῖρας ἀναιμάκτους μέν, οὐκ ἀφιλοχρημάτους δὲ προτείναντες, τούς τε θεοὺς ἔφασαν νενικηκέναι, καὶ τὴν ἱεροσυλίαν καὶ τὴν ἀσέβειαν εἰς ἔπαινον σφῶν αὐτῶν κατελογίζοντο.

(6.) Εἶτα ἐπεισῆγον τοῖς ἱεροῖς τόποις τοὺς καλουμένους μοναχούς, ἀνθρώπους μὲν κατὰ τὸ εἶδος, ὁ δὲ βίος αὐτοῖς συώδης, καὶ ἐς τὸ ἐμφανὲς ἔπασχόν τε καὶ ἐποίουν μυρία κακὰ καὶ ἄφραστα. ἀλλ’ ὅμως τοῦτο μὲν εὐσεβὲς ἐδόκει, τὸ (7.) καταφρονεῖν τοῦ θείου· τυραννικὴν γὰρ εἶχεν ἐξουσίαν τότε πᾶς ἄνθρωπος μέλαιναν φορῶν ἐσθῆτα, καὶ δημοσίᾳ βουλόμενος ἀσχημονεῖν· εἰς τοσόνδε ἀρετῆς ἤλασε τὸ ἀνθρώπινον. ἀλλὰ περὶ τούτων μὲν καὶ ἐν τοῖς καθολικοῖς (8.) τῆς ἱστορίας συγγράμμασιν εἴρηται. τοὺς δὲ μοναχοὺς τούτους καὶ εἰς τὸν Κάνωβον καθίδρυσαν, ἀντὶ τῶν νοητῶν θεῶν εἰς ἀνδραπόδων θεραπείας, καὶ οὐδὲ χρηστῶν, καταδήσαντες τὸ ἀνθρώπινον. ὀστέα γὰρ καὶ κεφαλὰς τῶν ἐπὶ πολλοῖς ἁμαρτήμασιν ἑαλωκότων συναλίζοντες, οὓς τὸ πολιτικὸν ἐκόλαζε δικαστήριον, θεούς τε ἀπεδείκνυσαν, καὶ προσεκαλινδοῦντο τοῖς ὀστοῖς καὶ κρείττους ὑπελάμβανον (9.) εἶναι μολυνόμενοι πρὸς τοῖς τάφοις. μάρτυρες γοῦν ἐκαλοῦντο καὶ διάκονοί τινες καὶ πρέσβεις τῶν αἰτήσεων παρὰ τῶν θεῶν, ἀνδράποδα δεδουλευκότα κακῶς, καὶ μάστιξι καταδεδαπανημένα, καὶ τὰς τῆς μοχθηρίας ὠτειλὰς ἐν τοῖς (10.) εἰδώλοις φέροντα· ἀλλ’ ὅμως ἡ γῆ φέρει τούτους τοὺς θεούς. τοῦτο γοῦν εἰς μεγάλην πρόνοιαν καὶ <εὐστοχίαν> Ἀντωνίνου συνετέλεσεν, ὅτι πρὸς ἅπαντας ἔφασκεν τὰ (11.) ἱερὰ τάφους γενήσεσθαι·

'Not long after, it was proven that there was something more divine about him [the pagan sage Antoninos]. For hardly had he departed from human life, and worship at the shrines of Alexandria and the Serapeum was scattered away. And not just worship but even the buildings themselves, and everything became like the myths of the poets, when the Giants ruled. The same happened also to the shrines of Canopus. Theodosius was then emperor, Theophilus was chief of the godless [=Patriarch of Alexandria] – a human Eurymedon ruling over the proud Giants [Odyssey η 58-59] – Evagrius was the head of civil authority, and Romanus was entrusted with the soldiers of Egypt. These latter armed themselves against the sacred stones and statues and attacked them fiercely. Thus, although they could not even bear to hear about war, they overwhelmed the Serapeum and engaged in a fight with the offerings, achieving a victory without opponent or battle. They waged their war against statues and offerings so valiantly that they did not just defeat but also plundered them, their military tactics focusing on concealing the booty. They failed to steal only the floor of the Serapeum, because of the weight of the stones – they were not easy to move. After they wrought havoc and perturbed everything, those most warlike and valiant champions stretched forth their hands ― clean of blood, but not of greed ― and boasted having defeated the gods, claiming for themselves praise for their sacrilege and impiety.

Then they brought into the sacred sites the so-called monks who looked like humans, but lived like swine, and manifestly suffered from and perpetrated myriads of evil and unspeakable things. Yet this was precisely thought to be pious, namely to disdain the divinity. For back then every man dressed in black had leave to commit offences unaccountably even in public, if he pleased. Such was the height of virtue humanity had advanced to. I have discussed these things, however, also in my books of the Universal History. So they established these monks also at Canopus, fettering humanity to a worship of slaves – indeed not even good ones ― instead of the heavenly gods. For they collected bones and skulls of people that had been put to death for manifold crimes, condemned by the civil courts of justice, and they proclaimed them gods. And they grovelled by the bones and thought that they were made better by being defiled at the tombs. These then were called martyrs, and ministers of sorts, and ambassadors of prayers from the gods ― slaves of vile servitude, ripped by whips, bearing the wounds of their depravity on their ghosts! But these are the gods the ground produces. This then proved the great foresight and accuracy of Antoninos, for he used to say to everyone that the shrines would become tombs. (......)'

Text: Giangrande 1956. Translation: Efthymios Rizos.

History

Evidence ID

E03503

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

405

Evidence not after

420

Activity not before

391

Activity not after

392

Place of Evidence - Region

Asia Minor

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Sardis

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Sardis Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Major author/Major anonymous work

Eunapius of Sardis

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - monastic

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Appropriation of older cult sites

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Scepticism/rejection of the cult of saints

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Pagans Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Ecclesiastics - bishops Monarchs and their family Officials Soldiers

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - bones and teeth Bodily relic - head

Source

Eunapius was born in Sardis (west Anatolia) in c. 347, where he died in the early fifth century. He was educated by the Neoplatonic Chrysanthius in Sardis and the sophist Prohaeresius in Athens. He taught rhetoric in Sardis, and was associated with an extensive network of pagan intellectuals, physicians, and artists. Eunapius was the author of a Universal History which survives in fragments covering the period AD 270–404. He also wrote the Lives of Philosophers and Sophists, still extant, which are is a collection of twenty-three biographies of philosophers and sophists. A major source for the history of Neoplatonism, it was probably published in c. 410 or later.

Discussion

This passage recounts the conversion of the Alexandrian Serapeum and the shrine of Canopus into Christian use in 391. The author reports that the Serapeum was first plundered by soldiers whose cowardice and greed he denounces with irony. Then, the shrines were given up to the monks and converted to Christian use, by the transfer of relics of saints by the monks. For the Christian version of the same story, see Rufinus, Ecclesiastical History 11.23-27. Rufinus confirms that a martyr's shrine and a church were built on the site of the Serapeum. Eunapius voices the fourth-century pagan view of the Christian cult of the martyrs as an abominable form of necrolatry, focusing on the remains of criminals. These were regarded as biaiothanatoi, people put to death in a violent way, whose spirits could not find rest and haunted their burial sites as ghosts. Eunapius seems to refer to dream visions which the Christians probably regarded as apparitions and manifestations of the martyrs, while pagans like Eunapius regarded them as ominous ghosts.

Bibliography

Text: J. Giangrande, Eunapii vitae sophistarum. Rome: Polygraphica, 1956. Translations: Becker, M. Eunapios aus Sardes: Biographien über Philosophen und Sophisten : Einleitung, Übersetzung, Kommentar. Roma aeterna 1. Stuttgart : Franz Steiner, 2013. Wright, W. C. Philostratus, Lives of Sophists. Eunapius, Lives of Philosophers. Loeb Classical Library 134. Cambridge, Ma, London: Harvard University Press, 1921, 423-425. Further reading: Panella, P. Greek Philosophers and Sophists in the Fourth Century A.D.: Studies in Eunapius of Sardis. ARCA 28. Leeds: Francis Cairns, 1990. Rinaldi, G. La Bibbia dei pagani. La Bibbia nella storia. 2 vols. Vol. 1, Bologna: Edizioni Dehoniane, 1997, 319-414, esp. 328-329. Rohrbacher, D. The Historians of Late Antiquity, London: Routledge, 2002.

Usage metrics

Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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Keywords

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